• Published 10th Dec 2013
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My Family and Other Equestrians - Blade Star

A HiE fic with a twist. Our protagonist is not alone. How does one approach being in Equestria, when their family is along for the ride?

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Interlude 13 - Trooping the Colour

For once, today I was not at my usual post. I wasn’t even in the throne room today. Instead, Celestia, Luna, their advisors (including myself and Shining Armor), as well as a few other Royal Guard top brass, were assembled on the balcony, which overlooked the main courtyard of the castle. Quite a view, I can tell you that.

Today you see, was quite a special occasion, Celestia’s birthday (though I dare not ask how old she is, but she must be getting on for fifteen hundred at this point). To mark the occasion, tradition dictated that the Royal Guard, at least the daytime watch, put on a parade and present their regimental colours. While it was held under a different name, today was effectively the trooping of the colour.

Of course, with the relatively recent return of Princess Luna, the day had undergone some alterations, mainly to include Luna and her own guards in the parade. The affair was steadily being changed from a celebration of Celestia, to a celebration of the diarchy, though of course, behind closed doors the elder diarch still had her own birthday bash.

The entire affair was strictly ceremonial, something the Royal Guard specialises in. After all, in their entire history, they have only had to engage in seven major battles; a testament to both the skill of the princesses in diplomacy, and the guard as a deterrent force. After all, the best weapon is one you need never fire. My son on the other hand, cites the Elements of Harmony, arguing that the best weapon is one you only need to fire once. It was a shame he couldn’t be in the crowd below that had turned out. He really looks up to these guys, particularly Strong Shield.

As we were all settled, we waited for the celebration to start. This would be quite a long celebration, with several sections of the Royal Guard taking part. Luckily though, we had all been provided, as dictated by our station, with rather comfy chairs. I myself sat next to Shining Armor. The Captain of the Royal Guard was turned out in full regimental dress; a bright red jacket, with a blue sash, which held his many decorations. Each advisor seemed to be paired with a guard. On the other side of me sat Princess Luna, and beyond her was Celestia herself, each in their ornate thrones.

“How long have they been training for this then, Shining?” I asked as we waited.

“Pretty much all year. They know that there can't be any slip ups. Everything has to go perfectly, particularly with me and both the princesses watching. Every single guard down there takes pride in the fact that he has trained for this and his ability to do everything asked of him.”

“Patriots all then, eh?”

“I suppose you can say that. Though these days, you have to be careful. Nopony wants to bring up old conflicts between the two guards. But I can tell you that every single one of those stallions down there has seen action. A lot of them served at my wedding.” I then noticed that Shining was sweating slightly.

“You a bit nervous too, captain?” I asked. It was understandable, after all he was their boss, and everything was, as he is so fond of saying:

“It’s my responsibility to ensure everypony is up to speed and the best that they can be and are able to perform their duties properly. Any slip up will be on my head.” At this point, Princess Luna entered the conversation.

“Be at ease, Captain Armor. Your guards are well trained and true. Do not allow your doubts to unsettle you.” And with that, the parade began.

Prior to everything getting underway, the small Colour Bearer Party had positioned themselves on the right hand side of the parade ground. To their right, and directly opposite our position on the balcony, assembled in columns were the three regiments of the Solar Guard, the two regiments of the Lunar Guard, and finally, the small contingent of griffons which were permanently seconded to Equestria. I’m not quite sure how that last one works; I’ve never seen a griffon on duty in the palace, aside from Major Hartwin. Finally, to our right was the Band of the Royal Guard, a brass and drum affair.

The first order of business was the inspection of all the guard regiments. One at a time, the regiments would be presented for Celestia to inspect them.

“Guards!” called Strong Shield, the overall commander, in a loud, bellowing voice. “Slope arms!” This was quickly followed by “Shoulder arms!” As one, more than three hundred guards shouldered the large spears with which they were ceremonially armed. Celestia would now conduct an inspection of the line.

The band began to play a number of pieces as Celestia sailed down on her large, swan like wings, with four attendant pegasi in tow. She settled herself at the further right of the line, where the regiment that would eventually be presenting its colours was located. With the four pegasi guards keeping a little way behind her, she walked in a stately manner along the line of the six assembled regiments, casting a careful eye over them. Not a single spear moved for the entire event. At length, she completed her inspection, and after receiving a salute from the officers, who carried swords rather than spears and wore more ornate armor, she returned to us on the balcony.

“Guards! Take arms!” Strong Shield bellowed. Again, there was a flurry of movement as the guards adjusted themselves.

Now came the next part of the parade. The massed band would be trooped past Celestia and a single drummer would move to join the No.1 Guards. The leader of the band barked out commands.

“Massed band! By the centre, slow march!” And with that, the band began to march, crossing in front of Celestia as the guard regiments later would, headed towards the colour bearers. Upon reaching them, they turned around one by one, essentially meaning they were heading almost into each other given the size of some of the brass instruments. Eventually, they returned to their original position. The whole procedure was then repeated, this time at a quick march. This time however, a lone drummer broke away from the group and proceeded to stand next to the first guard regiment. Now there’s a job that takes guts; everypony’s eyes were on that single guard. When the band returned for the second time, they came to a halt.

As soon as the band stopped playing, the lone drummer began to play. Again, I did not envy his position. He tapped out the call for officers to take post. At the same time the regimental sergeant major was relieved of his ceremonial staff. This allowed him to draw his sword, which meant the regiment could protect the colour. Strong Shield barked orders.

“Escort for the colour! Slope arms!” A moment later this was followed. “Remainder, take arms!” Then finally. “Stand at ease!” His job was now done, and the next phase was in the hands of the young officer in charge of No.1 Guards. In a moment, they would ‘step off’ as they call it and proceed to take possession of the colour and present it to Celestia.

“Escort for the colour! In close order, close ranks!” The No.1 Guards now moved their rows closer together than their counterparts. When this was completed, he continued. “Escort for the colour! By the left, quick march!” And with that, the regimental band began to play a very familiar tune. I turned to Shining Armor as they began to march.

“Hey, Shining, I recognise this tune! My country’s military used to use this as a march,” I exclaimed. Shining looked quite surprised by this.

“Really? I guess Ride of the Valkyries wasn’t just a fluke then,” he replied. “Hey, watch now, the band’s about to do its spin wheel,” he gestured to the band, which was performing a rather unusual movement; it certainly looked like it required a hell of a lot of coordination. “You know, even though these parades have been held every year for centuries, nopony has ever documented how you perform the spin wheel manoeuvre; the band leaders just teach it to their successor.” I and several other advisors looked on in awe. Both princesses meanwhile, had a look of pride on their features. For the regiment in question, this was undoubtedly their proudest moment.

The guards marched to where the band had previously stood before executing their own turn to the left. This meant they were now facing the colour party, with the band between them and the other regiments. As soon as they had completed their turn they began to advance on the colour to retrieve it. A few yards before that could be accomplished, a halt was called. The regiment was then ordered into open order, whilst the band was ordered to retire and performed a quick about face. Strong Shield now barked out orders.

“Guards! Take arms!” Again, this was followed by “Slope arms!” Now, came another difficult moment. The sergeant major and the leader of No.1 Guards now stepped out to join the colour, with their swords drawn to protect it. This would be the hand over.

The regimental sergeant major saluted the colour and then briefly took possession of it. From what Shining told me, the colour is a heavy thing to carry, particularly in full dress uniform. The sergeant major then returned to the waiting guard and the procedure was repeated; the colour was now under the protection of No. 1 Guards. I heard Shining and a number of other officers breathe a sigh of relief. The leader began to give orders again, slightly altered due to the change in circumstances.

“Escort to the colour! Present arms!” All the officers on the balcony, along with us advisors now stood to hear the national anthem play. “Escort to the colour! Slope arms!” The new colour bearer now returned to the regiment as a whole, ready to parade. “Escort to the colour! Take arms!”

“Now we get to the real show,” Shining told me. “They’ll parade the colours in front of the other regiments and then everypony will march past Celestia.

With the band playing a slow march, the regiment returned to its original position, passing each regiment, starting with No.6, the small griffon contingent and ending with No.2 Guards.

As the regiment continued its parade before its comrades, I began to chat a little with Shining as well as a few others. I didn’t really know much about the Royal Guard, except that Shining was their CO, Strong Shield was in charge of training and that there were always four guards with a princess at any one time. So, I ended up getting a little bit of a lecture from Shining, with other ponies chipping in here and there.

“So how many regiments are there than overall?” I asked.

“There are seven in total if you count the griffon volunteers” Shining replied. “One of the day guard is on watch now during the parade, but everypony else is here.” At this point, my mind pointed out a little discrepancy.

“Hang on, then. If there are six regular regiments, and one of the day guard ones is on watch, why are there three day guard regiments?”

“Because one of them is a bunch of no good traitors,” a thestral captain piped up. “No.2 Guard ‘The Traitors’.” He gestured to what appeared to be a typical regiment of the day guard.

“Simmer down, Night Song!” Shining commanded sharply. Before the bristling thestral could reply, Princess Luna stepped in.

“Mr. Owen, the second regiment of the Royal Guard was previously a Lunar Guard regiment that served me. During the war against my sister, they recognised my foolhardiness and turned against me in an effort to bring me to my senses. In spite of their good intentions, the regiment, even today, is regarded with suspicion by some.” She cast a withering glance at Night Song, who mumbled an apology.

“What about the other regiments then? Any interesting stories there?” I asked, now quite interested.

“Well, No.1 Guards are quite famous today. They were the ones that managed to hold out against the Changelings a few years ago. And No.3 Guards was actually the first regiment raised entirely of earth ponies. Back in the day before inter-tribe regiments, earth ponies were often used as levies more than anything else. But we eventually realised how good they are in a fight at close quarters. I remember Strong Shield told me about one of his that managed to crack a changeling carapace when he smashed into it.”

“You’re not going to omit the Lunar regiments are you?” Night Song said, breaking in on the conversation.

“I was getting to them, but by all means, Night Song,” Shining countered coolly.

“Our regiments still practice segregation, simply due to the way we operate, despite what some say; one thestral regiment and one unicorn regiment. No pegasus can keep up with a thestral in the pitch dark, nor can they be as quiet. No.5 Guard is a little different of course, but we have to be more specialised for night time operations, so we’re a lot more selective. And we don’t use brute force, so we tend to use earth ponies as trackers more than anything. I tell you, a Lunar regiment will put any bunch of Bright Lights down in a heartbeat…”

“Captain Night Song,” said Princess Luna, her tone a little threatening. “If you wish, I shall fetch Starswirl’s time travelling spell from the archives and send you back to the time of the rebellion so that you may corroborate that claim.” That shut him up right and proper. Shining then continued.

“Yes, the two regiments under Princess Luna specialise in more stealthy means of operating. Most of their fame does go back to the Lunar Rebellion. No. 4 Guards ‘The Moon Shadows’ were famous for their ability to sneak up on, attack and defeat larger forces, whilst No.5 Guards ‘The Still Knights’ were known to be able to sit and blend into their environment to ambush their enemies.”

“And what about that smaller regiment of griffons?” I asked. “I can’t say I’ve ever seen any on duty in Canterlot.” This time it was the turn of Major Hartwin, the exchange officer from the Griffon Kingdom.

“That’s because they don’t usually serve here,” he answered. “Celestia’s Griffons are exiles. Back when the king was overthrown by one of the larger militias, about six hundred years ago, a small number of griffons refused to accept the new order. Since failure to follow the new emperor was a death sentence, they fled to Equestria. And when the Third Griffon War broke out, many volunteered their services, so Princess Celestia organised them into a mercenary regiment and charged them with defending the border. After the king was restored, he permanently seconded them to Equestria. In the end, they built their own community on the border and still guard it today.”

As the Major completed his explanation, No.1 Guards completed their manoeuvre. They would now troop the colour past Celestia, with the other regiments also doing a march past.

The usual orders for the escort to present, take and slope arms were given. Next, Strong Shield began again.

“Officers! Take post! Quick march!” he called. The more ornate looking guards promptly returned to their regiments. At the same time, the colour moved to the rear, which would be its traditional position prior to engagement.

“Numbers one to five guards! At the halt, right form! Quick march!”

The band now began to play and the guard regiments began to form up so that they were in a neat orderly line, with No.1 Guard at the front and No.6, which had been at right angles to the rest, at the rear.

“Numbers one to five guards, will advance!” This was shortly followed by.” Number six guards, close order! Move to the left, in threes, form threes! Quick march!” The various regiments were now lined up in position and ready to perform the march past.

“Guards will march past, in slow and quick time!” Strong Shield bellowed. I’ve no idea how he managed to keep blowing his lungs out for so long; maybe it’s something they just teach you in the forces. “By the left, slow march!”

Now we were on, this was the presentation of the colours and the march past. It began with a neutral march, and the band would change the music it played periodically as each regiment marched past Celestia on the balcony. One noticeable difference I found, much to my surprise, was that all the regimental pieces had words, and the guards were expected to sing as well. As No.1 Guards approached us, the colour moved to the front to salute Celestia; a move that required to colour to be dipped. But on no account can it touch the floor.

With Strong Shield leading, closely followed by the colour, which was in turn followed and protected by No.1 Guards, the parade approached us. The music promptly changed and the guards began to sing.

Hark! I hear the foe advancing,
Twisted monsters proudly prancing.
Flimsy wings in sunbeams glancing,
Flitter through the trees.

Guards of Cant’lot lie ye dreaming?
See ye not their cruel fangs gleaming?
See their warrior pennons streaming,
To this battlefield.

From the towers rebounding,
Let the war cry sounding.
Summon all at Celestia’s call,
Drive back the evil horde!

Guards of Cant’lot on to glory,
See your banner famed in story.
Wave these blazing words before ye;
Equestria scorns to yield!

Mid the fray see dead and dying,
Pony and changeling together lying.
All around the magic flying,
Scatters sudden death.

Frightened mares are wildly neighing,
Brazen trumpets hoarsely braying.
Wounded beasts for mercy praying,
With their parting breath.

See they’re in disorder!
Comrades keep close order!
Ever they shall rue the day,
They ventured o’er the border!

Now the demon flies before us,
Victory’s banner floateth o’er us.
Raise the loud exulting chorus,
Equestria never yields!

As the procession passed, Strong Shield raised his sword to Celestia in salute, whist the colour was lowered and allowed to fully unfurl. On it were the many battle honours the guard regiment had won over the years. I could make out First and Second Colt’s Run, Battle of the Borders, Appleloosa Territory, Agincolt, and of course Battle of Canterlot, their most recent honour.

Celestia of course returned the salute of the colour and the regiment. As they marched past the band promptly changed to music for No.2 Guards. I couldn’t help but smile when I recognised the tune. God knows more than a few clients I’ve defended had had this played for them. The tune was shorter than that of No.1 Guards, but was repeated for the march past. Evidently, they’d adopted their title quite well.

Fifty I got for selling my sword,
Fifty for selling my armor.
If ever I list as a guardsman again,
Old Discord shall be my sergeant.

Poor old pony
Poor old pony.
Fifty I got for selling my sword,
Fifty for selling my armor.
If ever I list as a guardsman again,
Old Discord shall be my sergeant.

Again a salute between Celestia and her loyal guards was exchanged. The look on her face was one of pride, but not as a diarch. It was more like pride of a mother for her children. Understandable, I suppose, given how she referred to even the toughest of them as ‘her little ponies’. Now came No.3 Guards, the all earth pony regiment. The music switched to a quick march.

From the halls of Canterlot Castle,
To the shores of Tricolti.
We fight Equestria’s battles on the land and on the sea.
To keep our rights and freedoms,
We shall strike true and strike hard.
We are proud to claim the title,
Of Equestria’s Royal Guard.

Now there were the two regiments of the Lunar Guard. Night Song, who now seemed to have had a filter installed, mentioned that in light of the relatively recent return of Princess Luna, the Lunar Guard only had a single shared anthem which both regiments would sing. As the darker counterparts approached Celestia, they did not salute her; after all, they are the guards of Princess Luna. However, they did present their arms as a sign of respect. The band changed again and the guards began to sing. Night Song informed us that, for political reasons, some of the more inflammatory verses had been omitted.

We are a band of brothers,
And native of the Night.
Fighting for the time of day,
That's our by honest right.
And when our Night was threatened,
The cry drew near and far.
Hurrah for our Brave Blue flag,
That bears our moon and stars.

Hurrah, hurrah,
For Luna's Night hurrah!
Hurrah for our Brave Blue flag,
That bears our moon and stars.

When Luna draws o'er wearied earth,
Her cloak of sable hue.
And bids us dream of home and friends,
The guardsman staunch and true.
Then 'neath the moon that's glowing bright,
In the place of Celestia's star.
Are we on watch with our Brave Blue flag,
That bears our moon and stars.

Hurrah, hurrah,
For Luna's Night hurrah!
Hurrah for our Brave Blue flag,
That bears our moon and stars.

Then cheer, colts, cheer,
Raise a joyous shout.
For our great guard has risen up,
And now we're marching out.
And let another rousing cheer,
For our dear princess be given.
The silver moon of our Brave Blue flag,
Shall reign the night fore'er.

Hurrah, hurrah,
For Luna's Night hurrah!
Hurrah for our Brave Blue flag,
That bears our moon and stars.

And last, but certainly not least, was the griffon regiment of No.6 Guards. Given the militaristic nature of the griffons as a people, I had expected some military anthem from them. To be honest, they struck me as quite German in nature, very Prussian. The eagles in their armor didn’t help matters, nor did their marching style. But to my surprise and perhaps Celestia’s amusement, the griffons, with a great amount of volume began to sing this.

It's a long way to Tippermarey,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tippermarey,
To the sweetest mare I know!
Goodbye, Ponydilly,
Farewell, Leicestcolt Square!
It's a long, long way to Tippermarey,
But my heart's right there.

Major Hartwin scowled slightly as the contingent marched past. Whilst he is here as an exchange officer, he still sees his loyalty as being with the Griffon Kingdom. As I later learned, these exiles are still not welcome in some circles of griffon society. Shining Armor turned to him.

“Come on; a simple song won’t make you the Duke of Trottingham, Major!” he said encouragingly. Hartwin snorted in annoyance

With this final group having completed its parade, the celebration was all but settled. The rest of the show was the overly ceremonial way in which the various regiments were marched off to be dismissed. When the last of the guards had left the courtyard, the national anthem was played for a final time and Celestia and her entourage, myself included, retired back to the throne room. There was naturally no court held today, we were all there, like the guards, for ceremonial purposes.

Today however, was still her birthday, and so when everything was all done and dusted, Celestia announced that it was time for her to retire with her younger sister for the actual birthday party. I have to admit, that whilst it was a stirring show of loyalty, for Celestia as a pony, it was quite, well boring. So having dismissed her advisors and her guards she went to ‘let her mane down’ with Luna. Before she headed off though, there was time to wish her birthday wishes and give presents. Aside from Luna, her closest advisors are the only ones who really celebrate her birthday and not turn it into a national event.

“Here you are Celestia. Happy birthday,” I said kindly, as I handed over my small present. It had taken me a fair while to find it, but I’d managed to dig it out. It was one of those older teapots, ones that strain tea leaves rather than tea bags. As a tea drinker herself, I thought that she would appreciate it, as well as the opportunity to make her tea herself. Using her magic, Celestia ripped the paper off. This didn’t sit well with Luna.

“You know, sister. If you employed just a little more care, that paper could be used again for something.” Celestia merely rolled her eyes at that.

“This is one of the few fun things I get to do, Luna. Let me have it.” She removed the wrapping and saw what I had got her. She smiled, and a genuine one too. “Thank you, Roger. This is lovely.”

She steadily worked her way through her gifts, including ones sent by Twilight and Princess Cadence. And after she thanked us all for coming in and working hard as always, she and Luna departed for their chambers for the evening.

As I sat on the train that evening, I couldn’t help but think how little time Celestia had to herself. I mean, on her birthday, she had had to sit through a two hour long parade and perform a dozen different diplomatic functions with thousands of ponies’ eyes on her. On the other hand though, as she often tells me when I bring it up, as princess she can’t just take the day off. I pondered, she ought to have one day to herself, where she has no royal duties to perform. A few ideas began to rattle around in my head.

Author's Note:

Proofread by Sidetrack

For those of you interested; this chapter was based upon the UK event, the trooping of the colour, which is a celebration of the birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II. BBC coverage of the event is on YouTube.

Now, onwards to the adventure arc.

Also, 400 likes! :yay: Thanks, everypony!

Oh, and Happy Valentines Day tomorrow. I will be celebrating it by ignoring it as much as possible and reminiscing about how annoying the pink alicorn OC is. :trollestia:

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